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The American Academy of Family Physicians

Facts About The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)


The American Academy of Family Physicians is the national association of family doctors. It is one of the largest national medical organizations, with more than 100,300 members in 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. Until October 3, 1971, it was known as the American Academy of General Practice. The name was changed in order to reflect more accurately the changing nature of primary health care.

The Academy was founded in 1947 to promote and maintain high quality standards for family doctors who are providing continuing comprehensive health care to the public. Other major purposes of the Academy include:

To provide responsible advocacy for and education of patients and the public in all health-related matters;

To preserve and promote quality cost-effective health care;

To promote the science and art of Family Medicine and to ensure an optimal supply of well-trained family physicians;

To promote and maintain high standards among physicians who practice Family Medicine;

To preserve the right of family physicians to engage in medical and surgical procedures for which they are qualified by training and experience;

To provide advocacy, representation and leadership for the specialty of Family Medicine;

To maintain and provide an organization with high standards to fulfill the above purposes and to represent the needs of its members.

Realizing that the family doctor's effectiveness depends on sound, up-to-date continuing education, the founders wrote into the Bylaws the requirement that members in the Active membership category must complete a minimum of 150 hours of approved continuing education every three years to retain membership. This requirement may be met through continuing education programs, publication or presentation of original scientific papers, medical school or postgraduate teaching, residency training, etc. Accurate and current records are kept to ensure that individual requirements are met; if they are not, the member is dropped from the rolls. The requirement, unique at its time of origin, has, through the years, become a standard for an increasing number of other medical groups.

The Academy is governed by a Congress of Delegates composed of two delegates from each of the 55 constituent chapters, as well as from resident and student groups, new physicians, and the special constituencies (women, minorities, international medical graduates, and GLBTs). The Congress meets annually immediately prior to the Academy's Scientific Assembly and has sole power to establish policies and define principles. These policies and programs are carried out between annual meetings by the Board of Directors and a number of standing and special commissions and committees. Delegates to the Congress of Delegates elect the Board, which in turn appoints commission and committee members. Constituent chapters are similarly organized.

The Scientific Assembly is the Academy's largest meeting for continuing education, drawing more than 10,000 physicians and visitors.

The Academy was instrumental in the establishment of Family Medicine, a derivative of classical general practice, as medicine's 20th primary specialty. The AMA's Council on Medical Education and the independent American Board of Medical Specialties granted approval to a certifying board in Family Medicine, the basic structural requisite of a medical specialty, on February 8, 1969. Examinations have been given annually since 1970, and recertification examinations annually since 1976.

The Academy maintains a national headquarters in Leawood, Kansas. It publishes a clinical journal for physicians in primary care entitled American Family Physician, with a circulation of 156,000; AAFP News Now, an all-member news and features publication available online, via e-mail and as a weekly audio news summary; and Family Practice Management, a publication on practice management and socioeconomic issues.

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